That was the year The Pitt, a ship commanded by Captain William Wilson (1715-95), arrived from China in the Thames on April 26, a full six months earlier than she had been expected.
Wilson had taken a new route home (through the Molucca Islands to the north of New Guinea) by a course which was named Pitt’s Straits. It had taken just three months.
He was rewarded by the East India Company with a 100-guinea gold medal designed by the medallist and coin-engraver Richard Yeo (1720-79). The obverse shows Neptune seated on a rock as he points out to Mercury the quickest route to the riches of the East.
The reverse records the discovery of an alternative route to China and the gratitude of the EIC.
The bronze version of Wilson’s medal is scarce and the subject matter gives it wider collecting appeal. Estimated at £60-80 at Warrington & Northwich Auction (24% buyer’s premium) in Warrington on October 25, it took £2800.
Wilson was known for his wider naval exploits (he was promoted to commodore after engaging two French frigates on another return trip from the East) and as farmer in Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, invented a seed drill and levelling machine that caught the attention of the famous agricultural writer Arthur Young.